I’d very much like to thank poet Helen Moore for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. It is a beautifully creative and generous project and I’ve very much enjoyed touring through Helen’s website and blog, tracking back through others in the chain, learning as I go and gathering seeds of inspiration. Akin to the work being done on the roof, this invitation has come at a time when I’m in the process of reactivating my website and blog, the latter having been dormant for a bit due to other commitments. It therefore feels most timely to be engaging in the following questions as part of this work on the homefront …
What am I working on?
One of the things Gorwel (my husband, as well as music-partner) and I decided to do at the beginning of 2014 was record and release a song on the 1st of every month of this year. So far, we’ve managed to do this and all the songs can be found on SoundCloud here. Our self-imposed deadline (and making it public helps!) has given us the impetus we needed to finish song-ideas and write wholly new material, with the project very much evolving as we go. Each month, we don’t actually know what we’ll have ready for the next release – and this makes it feel very alive as a process.
This is, of course, typical of many writing/creative processes and is, perhaps, what makes it so invigorating and engaging.
Earlier this year, I was busy finalising the MS for my next collection The Green Gate, which is to be published next year on Cinnamon Press. Since then, I’ve been writing bits and pieces of poem but can feel in me the need to put my metaphorical nose to the metaphorical ground and follow the metaphorical scents. Our dog has an amazing nose – I learn from watching her ‘nose intelligence’.
I’m currently doing a poem response exchange with my friend Eileen Dewhurst – we swap poems via email and respond to them in whatever poetic form we want. Poet Meredith Andrea and I did this in 2009-2010 and it resulted in our collaborative work Screen of Brightness, a book that is very dear to us both. The process was truly ‘organic’ (a poetic cliché I know but it still fits!) and, in a year that was challenging for each of us in its various ways, what happened between us as part of the writing process was something of a life-saver. Meredith and I have discussed this in two conversation pieces,‘Singing the Green Between Us’ in Scintilla 16 (2012) and the LapidusJournal (Summer 2013).
Apart from the album of songs we’re gathering this year, I’d like to finish the short story collection I’ve begun of semi-autobiographical stories called What Childhood Brought and I’m very interested in the essay form, so I’m going to be exploring that a bit more too. My next poetry collection may well be called Anima/l. I’m also loving Lynne Rees’ forgiving the rain – the haibun form is something that I’m looking forward to exploring much more in future.
I’ve collaborated with painter Ann Johnson on poemcards in the past (and we’ll be doing more in the future) and we are exploring the idea of doing, at some point, a set of animal-themed poems and images, so we’ll see where that goes – when the time is right. (There’s a conversation between Ann and I on my website here. Ann also did the cover for Screen of Brightness.)
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
What a hard question to answer! What the genre is that I write in is open to debate, as is how it differs from or is similar to others of its kind. What I do know is that I need a poetry (as reader, as writer) that reaches into me deeply, connects, relates, affects, pulls me into Being, is visceral, felt, rich, wise, changes me somehow … Religere is a word that has resonance for me. I won’t name other poets I feel akin to for fear of leaving people out, but I was poetry editor for the journal Scintilla for two issues (16 & 17) and have been part of Scintilla from almost the beginning (as contributor, attender and participant in the colloquia over the years) so I do feel close and kindred to poets published there – but that is just the beginning of it, for the world is alive and teeming with poetry that brings one to life…
Why do I write what I do?
Aha – the ‘why’ question. Can I answer it? Well, all I can say is that the act of writing (with all that this entails) tends to bring me into greater wakefulness, helps me to feel more alive and acute, brings the sense of ‘me’ into greater focus and interrogation (as opposed to feeling more blurred and buried and ‘automatic’) and when I am writing what I write, whatever that is – when it starts to cohere into something – it is a kind of alchemy. Raw ingredients have in some way been ‘cooked’, transformed into ‘poem’, into a form that, in a tremulous transient way, ‘holds’. I write what I write because of … our field and garden. Because of us. Because when I walk, things come. Because I like the wabi sabi aesthetic, described by Leonard Coren as beauty found in, for example, natural process, the irregular, the intimate, the simple…
Because I share with Paul Matthews – and, I am sure, every poet – a fascination with language. Because it was Paul who taught me the difference between ‘sym-bolic’ (‘thrown together’)’ and ‘dia-bolic’ (‘thrown-apart’) – an important distinction which has since had great meaning for me. (Paul writes in a con-vers-ation we have posted on my website here that ‘if we delve among the roots of words we discover a kind of fossil record of how human consciousness has evolved …’.)
Because of what Jeremy Hooker and Anne Cluysenaar talk about with regard to poetry of relationship and ‘fellow-feeling’ in the Scintilla poets’ chain here. (This whole chain is worth reading!)
And … there is no doubt that the natural world is imperilled and with this knowing comes anguish. Do I write out of that?
The natural world is also a key source of wonder and love and connection and incarnation – Thomas Berry’s communion of subjects.Do I write out of that?
The institutionalised normalisation of violence to our animal kin – do I write out of that?
My life-long love for animals (all sentient beings) – a constant source of renewal and inspiration. I know I write out of that.
Making sense of my/our place in this thing-called-life – do I write out of that?
My pull towards connecting, relating, discovering, uncovering, learning to become more human(e) – do I write out of that?
Musicality – do I write out of that?
Living language and how it is offered up -?
My past, my potentials, my family, my lovings, my challenges, the sense of being storied – ?
Who or what I am -? In relation to Depth and Mystery? In relation to others?
Where do I start? Where do I end…?
How does my writing process work?
Underground/Overground (like wombling?). Starting usually in my notebooks and journaling, though occasionally springing to life fully-formed (it has happened). Spotting the diamond in the dustheap, as Virginia Woolf put it, when it shines as a word, line, image in among other stuff e.g. freewriting, word-sketching. Sometimes something comes from playing with words, alone or with others. When mindful. When lost. When noticing. When needing to notice. In collaboration. Alone. In response to. From Focusing (I’m training as a Focusing Practitioner with the wonderful Kay Hoffmann – and oh, just loving what this deepening, relating process brings) …
What works worst for me are word-seeds alive with potential but left abandoned in among the pages of my notebooks and journals. (But, note to self, seeds are resilient. Some ancient seeds have grown when finally planted …) Not doing the work that calls can create build up and blockage – so I’ve discovered.
What works best is following through, when/where I can – going back, working the ground, cultivating, growing, pruning (less being more) …
So my writing process best works with attention, attention, attention. Water and nourish those roots. Work the ground.
And I could keep saying and saying, but I think it’s time to leave it at that.
Thanks again, Helen!
The three blogging poets I am inviting to go next are: